Commentary: Longmire’s case shows dysfunctional culture within Oakland Police Department
We have little doubt that Oakland Police Sgt. Derwin Longmire’s conduct seriously compromised a police investigation into the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey.
The state Justice Department found that Longmire, the lead investigator on the Bailey murder, mishandled the case. An internal affairs captain referred to Longmire’s handling of the case as “inadequate.”
Meanwhile, The Chauncey Bailey Project has documented numerous instances where Longmire violated department procedures in the Bailey investigation. These included failing to document key evidence in his case notes — evidence that suggested a broader murder conspiracy orchestrated by Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV.
In order to obtain a murder confession from former bakery handyman Devaughndre Broussard, Longmire left Bey IV alone in an interrogation room with Broussard. After seven minutes, Broussard confessed to Longmire. The problem is Longmire never taped the conversation. Broussard later recanted, saying that Bey IV had ordered him to fall on his sword.
This failure to document key findings could have been just sloppiness and/or a lack of aggressiveness. But the fact that Longmire had a close relationship with Bey IV — a key suspect in Bailey’s murder — gives this whole affair a very bad odor.
Longmire’s attorney, Michael Rains, has long maintained that Longmire did nothing wrong. Longmire has declined to speak publicly about the charges. However, in a 60-page document obtained recently by The Chauncey Bailey Project that detailed state investigators’ interview with Longmire, the sergeant maintained that he did not have a relationship with Bey IV and, that, if anything, he should be credited with obtaining the confession from Broussard.
With the accumulation of evidence, we are not convinced.
Earlier this year, as questions about Longmire’s conduct mounted, police officials reassigned him to patrol. He has been on paid administrative leave since April. Sources had told Chauncey Bailey Project reporters that police officials were looking to discipline — and possibly fire — Longmire.
Yet last week, after a department hearing, police officials decided not to discipline Longmire for his conduct in the Bailey case. They won’t say why.
Longmire was given a five-day suspension related to his failure to complete work on other homicide cases.
We are dismayed by then-acting Chief Howard Jordan’s decision to return Longmire to duty. But Jordan may have felt he had no choice.
Longmire has so thoroughly compromised the Bailey investigation that terminating him now could very well jeopardize prosecutors’ murder case against Bey IV. Prosecutors have said that Longmire’s investigation has been so discredited they probably won’t even call him to the stand.
So in the end, it appears that Longmire gets exonerated not because he did nothing wrong, but because his firing would call further attention to his lack of thoroughness in the Bailey investigation.
This is the very sort of dysfunctional culture at the Oakland Police Department that we hope the new chief, Anthony Batts, will work to change.